The Electoral College Should Be Retired or Abolished – Just Like Quill Pens, Buggy Whips, Powdered Wigs, and Slavery

I have just run the numbers, and it is true – the US Electoral College is one of the worst Gerrymanders imaginable.

Five times now, the winner of the total popular vote in the US ended up losing the election (1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016). Clinton is now out-polling Trump by quite a bit (61.7 million to 60.4 million), but Trump is unfortunately probably going to win the presidency.

Just how perverse is the Electoral College? Beyond your wildest dreams.

I have just calculated that one party could WIN the presidency with only 31% of the total popular vote, while their opponents could LOSE the presidential election with 69% of the popular vote.

I am neither kidding nor exaggerating.

It comes from the fact that small states and voting territories like WY, DC, VT, ND, AK are wildly over-represented in the Electoral College. In Wyoming, each Elector represents a total population of about 177,000 people. In DC, each one represents 197,000 people. In Vermont, it’s 207,000 people per Elector.

But in large states like TX, FL, and CA, the population is grossly under-represented in the EC. In Texas, there are about 715,000 people per Elector – over FOUR TIMES as many as in Wyoming. In Florida, there are 679,000 people per Elector, and in California there are about 668,000 people per Elector.

The difference mostly comes from the fact that each state has two Senators, regardless of population.

So, if one party is able to win a whole bunch of smaller-population states with 51% of the vote in each one, and the other one wins the rest of the relatively-few larger-population states with a lopsided 90% of the vote in each one, it is possible for the first party to get to 285 electoral votes by only getting 37 million votes, while the opposition could get 83 million votes but lose the election because they only got 253 electoral college votes.

In a country with about 330 million people, the winners could get by with the votes of only TWELVE PERCENT of the population!!!

That is just plain perverse: Party A gets outvoted by a TWO-TO-ONE margin and still wins the presidency!?!?!?

It is time that we got rid of the electoral college, just like we got rid of buggy whips, blacksmiths on every corner, candlestick makers, and white powdered wigs. And slavery.

For the sake of this completely lopsided hypothetical election, I am assuming that the losing side got 90% of the vote in the following states: PA, WA, VA, IL, NC, NY, GA, AZ, CA, FL, and TX. That would give them a grand total of 253 electoral college votes – not enough – but a popular vote of over 83 million people. The winning side would win all of the other states by 51% to 49% margins, giving them 285 electoral votes but less than 37 million actual votes.

This cannot be tolerated any longer.

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Notes:

  • For the sake of simplicity, I am treating all of Nebraska and all of Maine as single states.
  • Don’t think that 90% votes are impossible. Here in Washington DC, Trump apparently got only about FOUR percent of the vote. Not 14%. Not 40%. But four per cent.
  • I am using the proportion of the population in each state that voted either Democrat or Republican in this last election as the baseline.
  •  Write me a note (in comments) if you want to see the entire spreadsheet and I can post it on Dropbox.
  • The idea for this column isn’t original, but the calculations are my own, and the numbers are based on this source and this one. I don’t recall what source I got the idea from, unfortunately, so I can’t give them credit. If you know who came up with this idea, please let me know.

 

Where are all the 2016 Campaign Stickers and Signs?

Most 4-year election cycles, there are literally (and also figuratively) tons of presidential campaign stickers for the two main parties and also for others plastered on vehicles, walls, buttons, yard signs, and much more.

Not so far this year.

(Back in my day, when we actually DID sometimes (wellll, twice, both February 1958 iirc) walk to the store pulling a sled through snowdrifts taller than me, I actually recall playing with a spinning top labeled “Ike on Top” from either the 1952 or 1956 election. During the last two cycles that Obama was running, you would see stickers or signs for Obama-Biden; or Romney-Ryan; or McCain-Palin nearly everywhere you looked, walking or driving.

I just drove to South Carolina through NC, VA and DC and back over 4 days and found a grand total of THREE such election notices, only 6 weeks before election day, and all were in NC:

  • One red pickup truck with TRUMP-PENCE signs
  • One small TRUMP-PENCE road side sign
  • One CLINTON-KAINE illuminated bill board

That’s ALL. None others, at all, anywhere we went that I was looking.

Before this trip, here in DC I recall  seeing a grand total THREE bumper stickers. One  Johnston, one Stein, and one Hillary.

So that is a grand total of SIX stickers or signs that I’ve seen posted by actual people, so far, this election. Lots of emails (I still get some from Carson – remember him?)

And that’s after driving many hundreds of miles on interstates and local roads and in various towns in NC, VA, DC and a tiny bit in S, as well as walking a fair distance. Almost no open and visible signs from anybody supporting either candidate!

These must be truly the most unpopular American presidential candidates in my lifetime and perhaps ever.  I suspect that on both sides, a lot of people will be voting while holding their noses, and that will include me, and will mostly voting AGAINST someone. (If you didn’t know already, I’m mostly voting AGAINST Trump but not in favor of either of the 3rd-party candidates. So that means I’m voting for Clinton, because I can’t abide the idea that somebody as foolish and as dishonest as Trump would be the American president.

Clearly there are some Trump supporters who don’t care how many times he’s lied, or whom he has demeaned, or how much money he’s swindled out of the rest of us, or how absolutely unfit he is for any position of trust and leadership. All of those unimipeachable facts make him completely unacceptable to the vast majority of people, but there is a core group of Trump cult members who have been conned. Believe me, he is the very best con-man out there. The very best. A bigly con-man. I’ll tell you, he is a world-class shyster. the very best. So those who have been conned pick and choose whichever side of his self-contradictory programs he sort-of articulates, and ignore all the contradictory evidence.

And of course, he and his Breitbart-Fox Fake news media friends have been promoting the Big Lie that Hillary Clinton is the worst liar in the world and a heartless murderer to boot.

Concerning Secy Clinton, I’m not crazy about how the policies of Obama and the Clintons in foreign policy and on education appear to be almost indistinguishable from those of GWBush, even though GWB justified those interventionist and frankly essentially imperialist policies on much more know-nothing, knee-jerk, right-wing, grounds that simply aggravated tensions abroad, alienated enormous numbers of Moslems and others in the Middle East, and dissipated all the support Americans got when the US was attacked on 9-11-2001. The policies of GWB — which have to a great extent continued under Obama  — supported totally corrupt, ruthless, violent regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan (Al-Maliki and Karzai) and in reaction caused groups like the Taliban and ISIS/ISIL and its predecessors, the Sunni Uprising in Iraq, to seem like legitimate resistance fighters to millions of people there. Destabilizing Libya and Syria hasn’t exactly brought about progress, either, and now the US has its ostensibly strongest allies (Kurds and Turkey) fighting each other. Bringing about an enormous refugee problem that seems to have no solution. So Trump is correct that the policies of the last two presidential administrations in the Middle East have been failures on their own terms — but his would be even worse!

Just think: he advocates stealing ALL THE OIL from Iraq, Libya and elsewhere, and doing torture even worse than the illegal stuff that the CIA and US military did all along, and IIRC has even proposed using nuclear weapons over there! That would make the US into one of the worst perpetrators of brazen war crimes of all time, and would prompt millions or billions of people into rising up against the American presence everywhere in the world.

Starting wars and uprisings can sound like a good idea sometimes if you aren’t the ones in the middle of it as a combatant or civilian. Armed conflict is not fun, but if people feel that they really have no choice, they will do it.

The stuff about Clinton’s emails and Benghazi, to me, seem to be utterly bogus issues — but since they have been repeated over and over again by the rabid anti-Clintonites, they have achieved their goal of making Clinton looking more duplicitous than the average politician. I think she is considerably less so. While far from perfect, her record is WAAAYY cleaner than Trump — who sets world-class records for lying. Like the Meghan Trainor song,  “His lips are moving, so he’s lying, lying, lying” as well as cheating others out of their money and avoiding taxes.

Can anybody think of a good NO TRUMP sticker? I’ve tried, but unfortunately, almost nobody plays Contract Bridge any more, and in fact regular 52-cards-to-the-deck playing cards are virtually unknown to many children, so the phrase “No Trump” won’t mean much to many people. (If you play Spades instead of Bridge, then any Spade *always* trumps any other card, which is a different sort of joke…) In any case, it would be pretty easy to make a phrase about spades, clubs, diamonds, hearts, trumps, no-trumps, dummies, and jokers that many folks would see as merely insulting and offensive, or else would be simply incomprehensible.

I haven’t been able to think of anything clever and funny and carries a good message. If anybody can think of one, I’d love to hear it or see it, publicize it to my dozens of readers, and give you credit! Here’s what I’ve seen so far:

TWO HEARTS BEAT ONE NO TRUMP

one no trump

But they are pretty lame…

 

What if we gave all American kids the type of education that was given to the Clinton, Obama and Trump children?

This is an excellent question, one that begs being asked every time I pass by places like Sidwell Friends, The Bullis School, or Saint Albans School in and around DC, and mentally compare those wonderful facilities with the DC public schools that I and my children attended, and in which I taught and continue to volunteer.

Bottom line: tuition and fees at those tony private schools is about three or four times what we as citizens spend on kids attending DC public or charter schools. For example, the middle school nearest my house (Brookland MS) has no playground…

I took this article from Education Week. It’s behind a paywall.

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What if America Spent Per Student What Clinton, Trump Paid for Private Schools?

By Andrew Ujifusa on July 27, 2016 7:22 AM

Philadelphia

In his speech last week at the Republican National Convention, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. noted that he and his siblings were fortunate to have options for their schooling: “We want all Americans to have those same opportunities.”

Fair enough. But Donald Trump Jr., along with his siblings and Hillary Clinton’s daughter Chelsea, went to private schools that weren’t cheap. And so have several other presidential hopefuls’ children, for that matter.

So we thought about the educational opportunity in monetary terms: How much would it cost to spend the same amount per public school student what it costs to send children to the same private schools attended by the offspring of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and his Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton? And what if we tried to match the basic outlines of their children’s private school experience when it comes to teachers?

Fortunately, Michael Griffith, an independent school finance consultant, did his own analysis to try to answer those questions.

Outliers Out of Reach

First, Griffith compared the candidates’ private school tuition costs for the schools from which their children graduated to average per-student expenditures in public schools in the children’s home state: New York in three of the four Trump children’s case; California, in Tiffany Trump’s case; and the District of Columbia, in Chelsea Clinton’s case.

Average per-student spending at those schools attended by the five presidential candidates’ kids is $38,464. Nationwide, public school funding is $12,251 per student.

For the purposes of Griffith’s calculations, he used tuition costs at the Hill School in Pottstown, Pa., for Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.; Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Conn. for Ivanka Trump; Viewpoint School for Tiffany Trump; and the Sidwell Friends School in the District of Columbia for Chelsea Clinton. (More on that somewhat tricky issue below.) Correction: We originally misidentified where Choate Rosemary Hall is located, although the error didn’t impact our description of Griffith’s analysis.

But let’s think long term about how that plays out over a child’s time at the elementary and secondary levels. The costs below would cover students’ entire educational careers at their respective schools.

private school tuition

The figures above are based on current annual costs, and not what Clinton and Trump actually paid themselves in tuition costs. And Griffith’s work requires some extrapolation: The private schools’ grade spans don’t necessarily match up with those in public schools. The Hill School, for example, where Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. went, enrolls grades 9-12. But Sidwell Friends enrolls pre-K-12.

We should also point out that Chelsea Clinton attended public school in Arkansas before Bill Clinton was elected president and she moved to Washington, where she enrolled in the Sidwell Friends private school. Given security and logistical concerns, it might make sense for a president to send his or her school-age child to private school. President Barack Obama’s daughters also enrolled in Sidwell Friends.

Even when it comes to tony private schools, the ones attended by Clinton and Trump’s children are up in the financial stratosphere. As of 2011, less than a fifth of all U.S. private schools charged more than $15,000 annually per student in tuition, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

private schools 2

Here’s some more context for that $38,464 figure: In 2014, the U.S. Census reported, the median income of a family with two or more school-age children (like Trump’s family) was $53,989. That’s the same as $54,970 in inflation-adjusted 2016 dollars. So the average private school tuition for the five children of the candidates would eat up 70 percent of such a median family’s budget.

Here are a couple of other statistics to consider:

  • Combined costs at the private schools attended by all four Trump children and Chelsea Clinton for some or all of their lives, in Griffith’s analysis, clocks in at $2.5 million over the course of their educational careers.
  • Combined costs for three New York state public school children (to match their Empire State counterparts Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka Trump), a California public school student (to match Tiffany Trump), and a District of Columbia public school student (to match Chelsea Clinton) clocks in at $1 million over their educational careers.

You can call that a gulf instead of a gap if you want.

Bring On the Teachers?

OK, but let’s think really big. What if we spent $38,464 on each public school student in the nation? What would be the total annual cost, and how much of a change would it be from current per-student spending levels?

Griffith has answers for that, too.

He has America spending $595 billion on K-12 from federal, state, and local sources. How much more would it be if we spent $38,464 on each student, instead of $12,251?

per student public vs private

e of $1.2 trillion. Does that dollar amount sound familiar? It might. That’s because in 2014, the entire student-loan debt of 40 million Americans was also estimated at $1.2 trillion. We’re not talking a few lint-covered quarters here.

Finally, Griffith looked at the average student-to-teacher ratio in the four private schools attended by Clinton and Trump’s children. It came out to about 7.4 students per teacher on average.

By contrast, the national ratio of students to teachers is about 16:1—there are 48.5 million public school students, and 3.1 million public school teachers. The sources for these figures are given below.

However, those ratios are not the same thing as average class size.

So how many more teachers would the nation have to hire to achieve that 7.4 students-per-teacher ratio like the one the Trump siblings and Chelsea Clinton enjoyed?

private vs public student teacher ratio

The nation would have to increase its teacher workforce by 120 percent, or add nearly 3.8 million new teachers, to match what the Trump children and Chelsea Clinton experienced, on average, in their schools. (Each figure in the graphic above represents about 48,420 teachers.)

Money and Opportunity

Griffith’s analysis is quantitative and not ultimately qualitative. And as you might expect, Griffith doesn’t say how that additional $1.2 trillion would be redirected to schools and added to their budgets. It’s pure theory.

For fiscal 2016, the Department of Defense’s budget is $573 billion. A President Clinton or Trump could zero out the Pentagon’s budget, redirect that entire pot of money to schools, and it would stillcover slightly less than half of the total new money needed to match the average per-student spending figure in the private schools we’ve discussed. That’s assuming, of course, that state and locals don’t pitch in at all.

There are a lot of other questions.

  • Many might want parents to have direct control over that new flood of money through vouchers or education savings accounts. How would redirecting some or all of those dollars straight to parents shake up the educational landscape?

Voucher programs and ESAs mostly, if not universally, aren’t large enough to cover tuition at the Hill School or Sidwell Friends—if many parents could use the $38,000 for a local and (likely) much cheaper private school, what could and would they do with the leftover cash?

School choice is certainly an issue Donald Trump has emphasized, on the few occasions when he’s spoken about education:

  • Where would the money go? Would much or most of it go towards hiring new teachers and drive down those student-to-teacher ratios we’ve discussed? Or there’s educational
    technology—would millions of students suddenly get handed a laptop, smartphone, tablet, and (what the heck) Google Glasses courtesy of his or her public school?
  • And as one would expect, the facilities at those private schools attended by the Clinton and Trump children are different than what studentsexperience in Detroit public schools. Per-student spending figures often don’t include school construction costs, but what if some districts wanted to create leafy, spacious campuses with swimming pools and amphitheaters?

Look at the campus map of the Hill School to the right. There’s a building for squash courts, an arts and crafts center, and a music house. The campus covers 200 acres.

hill school campus

  • Here’s a related issue: the enrollment size of the private schools in question. Sidwell Friends, for example, enrolls 1,149 students in pre-K-12. You can easily find public high schools alone where the enrollment matches or exceeds that figure. In 2010-11, the average enrollment of an American high school was 847 students, NCES reported, but California’s average high school enrollment was 1,463 students.
  • And some of the most straightforward yet crucial questions we can ask about this issue are: Would spending over $38,000 per student in public schools create a lot of progress, some, or not at all? And would that be an efficient use of taxpayer dollars?

That kind of per-student spending amount would truly test the arguments about whether inadequate school funding is what’s preventing better experiences and outcomes for students.

Of course, many in the K-12 field argue that creating strong educational opportunities for children is not solely, or even largely, about the financial resources provided to those children from their parents or government. But others say, particularly after the Great Recession, many districts and states don’t provide what their schools need, particularly for schools with large shares of students of color and those from relatively poor households. How would this kind of influx of money impact debates about socioeconomic and racial integration in schools?

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton’s pick for vice president, addressed school integration in his own experience during a speech last Saturday:

Additional Facts and Figures

A few more notes about Griffith’s data:

  • The private schools’ cost information comes from their websites. Per-student spending figures on public schools come from the National Education Association’s cost rankings and estimates for2015 and 2016.
  • He didn’t include private school tuition information for Barron Trump, Donald Trump’s youngest child—Griffith said this is because Barron is a minor.
  • Griffith used tuition information from the schools which the Clinton and Trump children graduated from, but as we noted above regarding Chelsea Clinton, the candidates’ children did not necessarily attend those schools all through their elementary and secondary careers. For example, Griffith used costs for Choate Rosemary Hall for Ivanka Trump, but noted that she switched to Choate from the Chapin School when she was 15. And Eric Trump also attended the Trinity School in New York City.
  • The tuition amounts in Griffith’s calculations are based on the cost for day students, not boarders.
  • Tuition for Viewpoint Schools, which Tiffany Trump attended, varies from student to student. Griffith calculated an average of the various tuition costs, assuming a student attended from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Assistant Editor Sarah D. Sparks contributed to this post.

 

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